The Church: The Building of God

Picking up where we left off last week where we talked about the metaphor of the church as a field, Paul immediately jumps into a new metaphor: “God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9). He then writes,
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled[b] master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:10-15).
Three themes immediately are apparent in this metaphor.

Firstly, Jesus is the ultimate foundation of the church. It’s always good to remember that the church is ultimately build on Jesus. Paul explicitly reminds the Corinthians that there isn’t any another foundation besides Jesus (v. 11). It brings to mind Jesus’ imagery of a man who builds his house on the rock (Matt. 7:24-27). The house on the sand is washed away in the storm, but the house on the rock with stands. The church and our individual lives are meant to be on the true foundation, not on anything less than Jesus.

Secondly, we each build up the church. Paul says he metaphorically laid the foundation of the church (v. 10). However, the building that goes on the foundation is built by others. It is true that the “church is not a building; it is a people,” but the metaphorical building is constructed through the people. It is in our attendance, but more so in our involvement that we make the church strong. Every word of encouragement through one another, every bible study, every prayer builds the church. However, our building activities come with the stern warning, “Let each one take care how he builds upon it” (v. 10).

Thirdly, our construction materials are tested. The foundation won’t let us down, but our building materials might. This is the main theme of this passage. The Corinthians are constructing a church with worldly values like power, esteem, and intellectualism. Paul has to remind them that one day Jesus is going to judge their workmanship. The test is fire—which is both a destructive and purifying force. Quality workmanship is rewarded, and anything that doesn’t mean the divine building code is burned up. It’s a difficult teaching, but Jesus did say, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Just saying we are building the church for Jesus doesn’t cut it; we must build with the fruits of the Spirit and the power of God.

Discussion

  • What insecure foundations might people try to build their lives on?
  • What is the difference between showing up at church and being involved at church?
  • What does it look like for a church to be “built” with poor “materials?”
  • What does it look like for a church to be “built” with good “materials?”
  • How do our lives change if we truly embrace being the building of God?

Prayer Prompt

Ask that you are not just a hearer of the Jesus, but a doer of those words. Confess times when your words or actions have teared down the church or you have built the church on worldly values. Pray that your hands and feet are instruments for the betterment of the church.
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